Many years ago, a friend’s son got accepted into Cambridge to study French.

I asked him if he knew what he wanted to do when he graduated.

He said he wanted to work in film.

I said “Making films in France?”

He said no.

I said “Translating French films into English?”

He said no.

I said “You’ve lost me, why are you spending 3 years studying French when you know that’s not what you want to do?”

I’ll always remember his reply, he said “Because a degree, any degree, is a very marketable commodity”.

A couple of years later we had a young intern at the agency, waiting for his A level results.

I asked him what he was going to study at university, he said Geography.

I said “Do you want to be a cartographer?”

He said no.

I said “Well what do you want to do when you graduate?”

I’ll always remember his reply, he said: “Anything but geography, I can’t stand geography.”

I asked him why he was going to spend three years studying something he hated.

He said his teachers told him he’d get his best A level results in Geography, so that’s the degree he should apply for.

Around the same time we had a young account man who told me that he’d done a one year foundation-art course at St Martins, before dropping out and going to university.

I asked him why he dropped out, he said art school was too unstructured.

That intrigued me, I found out roughly 50% of the kids that do a foundation year at St Martins art school drop out and go to university.

I asked a lecturer at St Martins why this was.

He said that, after school, some kids can’t take the lack of supervision, face-time and regular feedback, they feel abandoned and rudderless and need direction.

They need constant attention, and university is more like school that way.

So it seemed to me, art school is about discovery, university is about memory.

At university you sign on for a subject and three years later pop out having learned everything about that one subject, only then do you start to think what you want to do with your life.

At art school you start at foundation trying everything creative: from film to fashion, from typography to digital.

Then you specialise, year-by-year, until you major in one discipline in the final year.

When you’re finished you’ve tried everything, trained in your speciality, and you leave with a portfolio to get that job.

So, at art school you’re already trained when you leave, at university you start training when you leave.

Because university is about getting a piece of paper to say you’re clever, while art school is about discovering and training for your future.

That could be why Phillip Pullman said “I got a degree from Oxford, but I really wanted to go to art school and I always regretted that I didn’t”.

I was in a cab in Istanbul, with designer Stefan Sagmeister, we’d both just been on stage giving speeches.

I asked him where his head office was, he said New York.

I said “That must be great, New York is the creative capital of the world”.

His answer surprised me, he said “Surely you mean London”.

Maybe that’s why one in seven designers, worldwide, went to a UK art school.

At my daughter’s school the headmaster was asking students which university they’d be applying to, obviously he was most impressed when they said Cambridge or Oxford.

When my daughter said she didn’t want to apply to university, she wanted to go to art school, he said “Ah yes, the loser subjects”.

Which explains the dichotomy we find in our business.

And why everyone in marketing approaches advertising like writing a thesis.

Maybe that’s why Rory Sutherland said “Creative people have a fear of the obvious, but they must sell their work to people who have a love of the obvious.”